Everyone wants their website to be mobile-compatible. With over 50% of internet traffic, any business or website owner with sense would. But every year, new devices appear on the market.
- A Samsung Galaxy S7 with a 5.1″ screen.
- A Microsoft Surface Pro 4 12.3″ convertible tablet.
- A 48″ curved Samsung smart TV.
- A 27″ iMac with Retina display.
And every year, the jobs of web designers and developers around the world are made a little more difficult. Websites need to be designed to be compatible with different operating systems, browsers and visual displays. This means time and money spent designing new iterations of websites to meet the quickly growing quantity of devices.
This was the standard approach to web design and development – before responsive design came along in 2002, that is. Content needed to be painstakingly moulded to each and every variation of software and hardware. This was a huge expense for website owners, and required continual upkeep. With the advent of responsive web development, content flows to fit the user’s needs intuitively.
“Content is like Water. You put water into a cup it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.” Stephanie Walter, Web Designer
This is the underlying principle of responsive web design. Unlike the previous, time-consuming method of designing bespoke variations of websites for different users and their devices, responsive web design fits each device fluidly. Content flows to fit its environment. Grids, images and content all scale depending on the user’s device. This makes for a far more beneficial user experience across a wide range of devices – and saves web owner’s time and money designing variations, too.
Responsive Web Design – An Approach, Not A Single Technology
Truth be told, responsive web design isn’t one single tech solution. Rather, it’s a variety of methods and techniques. These include scalable grids and images, media queries and more. Another important element relating to responsive web design is the idea of ‘mobile first’. This is – simply put – the idea that websites should be designed first for mobiles, and ‘scale up’ for larger devices (PCS, tablets, TVs). This means that, instead of mobile users experiencing a squashed, clunky website, every user across the board benefits from a fast, smoothly functioning website.
This adaptive approach has its roots, strangely enough, in architecture. Responsive architecture – an emergent field – aims to improve the efficiency and capabilities of buildings and their spaces.
See examples of responsive architecture.
The idea being that spaces change and compromise depending on the people that inhabit it in that moment. Walls expand, atmospheric conditions adapt and features change to suit the occupants. Just like these real spaces, responsive web design creates websites that adapt to suit different devices and their user’s needs.
So why is it important to you?
Beyond all the technical and cross-vocational talk, responsive web design has some very important benefits for your very business.
Responsive web design is…
- User-friendly - Because responsive web design ensures your site adapts to each device, every user’s experience is as functional and straightforward as possible
- Cost-effective - Designing only one site (as opposed to 2 or 3 iterations) ensures you keep your costs far lower than usual – whilst still offering optimal functionality to as many visitors as possible.
- Good for SEO - With one site to index, responsive websites are far more efficient for Google to crawl and index. Google also rewards sites that offer a higher user-experience, and responsive web design achieves exactly this.
- Simplifies everything - From SEO campaigns to keeping track of different website versions, responsive web design keeps everything as minimal and simplified as possible – making your experience as a website owner far easier.
What Do Responsively-Designed Websites Look Like?
Note: Restore down and resize your browsers whilst on these websites to see how they change their shapes and forms to suit the dimensions of your window.
This is the ideal demonstration of what responsive web design can achieve. Not only does the text content scale down to fit different displays. Even the logo, menu and main images change their form and shape – whilst remaining legible and usable for different users across different devices.
As a product design company, it’s obvious that aesthetics are important to Henge. Naturally, their website seamlessly scales and adjusts to different dimensions – with each image-based section of the landing page remaining legible and interactive – no matter the dimensions.
This site isn’t just highly scalable and responsive. Every element of the user experience is intuitive and lightning fast to boot. Smooth, seamless, and artfully-designed, it’s a fantastic example of what a responsively designed website looks like.
It All Boils Down To One Thing: User Experience
It’s the one thing that web designers and developers are continually striving towards. Improving how their visitor’s experience their websites. From loading speeds, to the content of the navigation menu through to the very structure of the website, a huge range of elements go into contributing to user experience. Learn more about UX and UI.
Responsive web design is simply another approach to ensuring each user’s experience is as easy, helpful and enjoyable as possible. It solves user’s problems. As the browsing habits of consumers change over the years with new devices – responsive web design helps your website flow and evolve with these devices, keeps your website both relevant and functional – no matter what the latest iterations of technology throws at it.